Published March 24, 2002 in The Ledger Independent
LEXINGTON — How sweet it is.
So many highlights that all boil down to just one thing —Mason County has a state championship.
And the Royals’ road to the title couldn’t have more variety. In every game, they found a different way to win.
Their toughest test and closest look at being eliminated came in the fist round against St. Henry. It wasn’t until two seconds remained that a game-saving steal by Nathan Myrick assured the team would see the next round.
There, against Oldham County, the Royals again found themselves on the ropes before getting a late surge from their defense to pull away.
Against Hopkinsville in the semifinals, it was the same story. The Tigers pushed and pressed the entire game, and held the lead at halftime only to watch the Royals come together late in the third quarter.
Down by four, the Royals surged in front behind a 3-pointer from Chris Lofton, followed by three straight Oldham County turnovers, resulting in layups from Nathan Myrick and Wes Jones.
And i the finals, it was all offense. The Royals dominated with dead-eye shooting, hitting 52 percent of their shots and rolled to the state championship.
Coach Kelly Wells acknowledged how his team was able to find a different way to win each night, often with a different player taking charge.
“That’s important, especially at tournament time, because if you don’t find a way to win, you go home,” he said. “Our kids relied on the experiences we had throughout the season and they’re winners. They’ve done it in football and it carried over to basketball. You can’t underestimate the importance of knowing how to win and these guys have it down to an art.”
The performance in the finals was probably the most impressive, it coming after an intense challenge from Hopkinsville earlier it the day.
As the teams were introduced in an electric atmospheres with the lights our and a nearly-full Rupp Arena, Wells said he knew his team was ready.
“I cold even tell when our kids were being introduced they were ready to do it all together,” he said. “They were focused and we preached to them all season to seize the opportunity and boy, did they. They really paid attention and listened to what we wanted and were right on the game plans for 32 minutes.”
In the end, the Royals hauled home some hefty hardware with their names in the record books. Entering the tournament, Mason County was 7-8 and now sports an 11-8 record (6-3 in the first round, 2-4 in the quarterfinals, 2-0 in the semifinals and 1-1 in the finals.)